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Heileman launching another malt liquor.

G. Heileman Brewing Co., seeking to reorganize in bankruptcy court, could be headed for a sales and public relations flop with plans to introduce a higher-alcohol malt liquor, industry analysts say.

The analysts note that moderation in drinking is currently being emphasized by many brewers to counteract negative publicity about excessive use of alcohol.

Heileman, the nation's fifth largest brewer, said it will launch PowerMaster, a malt liquor with 5.9 percent alcohol, next month. Most regular beers contain 3.5 percent alcohol.

Heileman's Colt 45 currently leads the U.S. market for malt liquors, followed by Schlitz Malt Liquor. Both have 4.5 percent alcohol and flat sales, market analysts said. Brewers shipped more than five million barrels of malt liquors last year.

Sales of malt liquors constitute about 3 percent of the overall market for beer and related beverages. The biggest growth in the market has been among other products, such as Pabst Brewing Co.'s Olde English 800, which grew at least 30 percent last year, said beer industry analyst Frank Walters.

The brewer's marketing effort was criticized by at least one group as a "slap in the face on the war on some drugs."

George Hacker, director of the National Coalition to Prevent Impaired Driving in Washington, D.C., said the introduction of such products and their marketing to black consumers, "is insidious, particularly when inner-city blacks exhibit such high rates of problems related to alcohol as well as other drugs."

PowerMaster, which will be among the strongest malt liquors on the market, represents "a regional company trying to find a niche and trying to exploit it as much as it can," said Barry Ziegler, a securities analyst for A.G. Edwards in St. Louis.

Distributors say Heileman has previewed a fairly aggressive promotional and marketing program for the new brew.

"PowerMaster is an exciting opportunity for Heileman, because of the growth in that category," said Brian Morello, general manager of Beloit Brewing Corp., a southeastern Wisconsin distributor for Heileman products.

But Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co., the nation's number-two brewer, said it doesn't expect sales of malt liquors to rise and doesn't plan to add a higher-alcohol beer to its lineup, which includes a 4.5 percent malt liquor called Magnum.

"The malt liquor category is relatively small and sales have been flat for the past several years. We have no reason to believe that that's going to change," said Miller spokesperson Susan Henderson.
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Title Annotation:G. Heileman Brewing Co.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jun 24, 1991
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